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It's Official! The Angels Wasted Mike Trout's Prime

On Tuesday, it was announced that Mike Trout had been placed on the IL with a left hamate fracture. In layman's terms, he broke a bone in his wrist. The exact timetable is uncertain, but it will be at least several weeks. Trout has been dealing with injuries since 2017, but he hasn't enjoyed an entire season in a long time (the covid year doesn't count). Even in 2019, his last "fully healthy" season, he only played 134 games. Now, because he's Mike Trout, he still won the MVP, but since then, as good as he is when he's played, Trout has consistently been bitten by the injury bug. 

When Mike Trout plays, he's still better than 99% of Major League Baseball players will ever be. Even though he was having the worst year of his professional career, he was still on pace for close to a six WAR season. Don't get it twisted; Mike Trout, when healthy, is still a tremendous player. But the version of Mike Trout that we saw from 2012-2019, the player that averaged a ridiculous 9 WAR per season, that player doesn't exist anymore. He's too injury prone at this point. I know how this works, and I can already tell how people are going to react to this headline. 

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"He's signed through 2030, and he's going to come back this season! How can you say they wasted him?"

I don't know what's going to happen next year. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. But I know that the days of Mike Trout being the undisputed best player in baseball are over. They've been over for a while. Is he still top 10 when healthy? Probably. This is not an anti-Mike Trout blog. Mike Trout is one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. But this is his 12th full year in the league. He played the game of baseball at the highest level possible for a decade. He's taken great care of himself, but bad luck and father time catches up to everyone eventually. It's not a Mike Trout problem. It's an Angels problem. He's given it his all, and the organization has failed him. As far as they're concerned, this will only worsen for them. They are going to miss the playoffs with Trout being on the IL for an extended period. Shohei Ohtani will likely sign elsewhere this offseason. Their farm system isn't anything special, and their free agency track record (outside of Ohtani) is pretty weak. And who knows? The day may come when the Angels finally figure things out, build up a solid core and bring Mike Trout a championship when he's 37. Even if that happens, they still failed him. The Angels did NOTHING during his best years.

I do not believe that the only way to validate a player's legacy properly is to win a championship. Every time I tweet something negative about the Angels, it is meant with a chorus of people clapping back and saying, "Yeah, well, you're a Tigers fan. They've wasted Miguel Cabrera." No, they didn't. Miguel Cabrera's teams spent wisely (until Al Avila took over). They surrounded him with great hitters and pitchers. Is it a disappointment that they never won a championship? Of course. It's disappointing that Barry Bonds and Ted Williams never won titles, but their teams didn't waste them. In the prime of his career, Miguel Cabrera's teams won 17 playoff games. Mike Trout's teams won zero. Again, that's not a Mike Trout issue. He never had the core around him. Yes, they gave him Shohei Ohtani. They also gave him Anthony Rendon, Matt Harvey, Cody Allen, Tyler Anderson, and a million other free agent flops. Remember when the Angels promised the world that Jo Adell and Mike Trout would be patrolling the outfield in Los Angeles for a decade? Well, Adell just got recalled to fill in for Trout, and he has a -1.6 bWAR in 162 career games. 

It's not just that the Angels haven't made deep postseason runs with Mike Trout, but they haven't come close. Say what you will about Aaron Judge, but Judge hit 62 home runs last year in the biggest media market for a team that made it to the ALCS. Yeah, they flamed out when they got there, but at least they were there. They put themselves in position. The Angels had the undisputed best player in the world for a decade and won one division title and zero playoff games. It shouldn't bother me, but the Angels lack of success has hurt the game of baseball. Sports as a whole are at their most interesting when the best players are on the biggest stages. This organization has had the two most talented players of a generation on their team simultaneously for years and did nothing. The baseball world might've hated it, but Trout would've been better off getting drafted by the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, or any other organization with a semblance of an idea about building a good baseball team. I hope Trout gets healthy again. This isn't some career-ending inury. Even if he returns to prime form, he won't have a core around him capable of beating Houston or Texas. Whatever hopes people had of seeing the best player in his profession at the forefront of the baseball world in October are sadly dead.

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